Monday, 7 September 2015

Are Women Generally More Left Wing Than Men?

I've no empirical evidence for this apart from my own local experiential perceptions, but it seems almost certain to me that on average women are more economically left wing than men. By that I mean if you picked a random woman off the street there is a greater chance she'd be to the economic left than the economic right.

From what I gather, there is evidence that we tend to become more economically right wing as we get older too (is that due to increased knowledge and wisdom?), which may mean there is a greater proportion of leftism among younger women. One reason for this could be that proportionally there are many more women in the public sector than men, and many fewer women in the private sector than men, which could be a bearing on how state run institutions are viewed. Add to that the fact that welfare payments are given more to women than men (according to research done by the Fawcett Society) and it's easy to imagine why it might be the case that women tend to be more left-leaning than men.

Despite the foregoing, I think the most prominent reason for young women's leftism is one that is not popularly considered - it is to do with the risk aversion associated with female biology and the need to provide a stable family environment. With this in mind I decided to do some research to see if there had ever been experiments to test competiveness. It turns out there had, of which more in a moment.

People who are less competitive may well prefer a market that is constrained by a big state that shares out resources; they may desire ownership to be more evenly spread than it is; they may be more perturbed by the stratification between the rich and poor; and they may be less keen on low wages. Naturally proponents of the free market are more comfortable with all of those things because they sit more easily with the fact that prices (be they goods, services or labour) are controlled by supply and demand not the state.

Without knowing prior to writing this if there is any kind of human fulcrum for competitiveness that transcends gender-specifics, it was hard to know what the level of competitiveness actually is. Are uncompetitive women extraordinarily less competitive than standard men and women, or are competitive men extraordinarily more competitive than standard men and women?

The research I found gives some indication. Economists Uri Gneezy and John List proffered some studies in the different sexes’ appetite for competition, and performance in competitive situations. Men and women were asked to throw a ball at a target, with the prize-givers offering two scenarios. A cash prize if the ball hits the target, or a head-to-head against an opponent whereby the winner gets three times the value of the single ball cash prize and the loser getting nothing. Gneezy and List found that men like to compete in the head-to-head much more than women. But they also found that in matrilineal societies (like the Khasi population in India) women were more competitive than men. There are, of course, many more male-dominated societies than female ones, so it still holds that more men like to compete in the head-to-head than women - but the surprising findings in the Khasi give indication that socialisation could well be the key factor.

Naturally when the tests were run in the UK they showed that women were far less competitive than men - which is unsurprising given that male-dominance has historically been pretty pervasive in the UK. One other potentially important factor - men probably are naturally more competitive because of the male evolutionary story, where competing for females is inherent in their legacy. All these probably are important factors in making women less competitive than men, and as a corollary, more likely to be left wing.